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A Bobcat’s White-tailed Deer Cache

1-21-15  bobcat2 cache by Otto Wurzburg 009 (3)Rabbits and hares comprise much of a Bobcat’s diet, but when prey is scarce or hard to capture, adult male or sometimes large adult female Bobcats will attack bedded, weak or injured adult White-tailed Deer. Bobcats often cache prey (such as a deer) that is too large to eat in one feeding, returning to feed on it for an extended period of time. They scrape up leaves, bark, twigs, soil. snow – whatever is available – and cover their prey. When feeding on a deer, Bobcats bite away the hair to avoid eating it, and this discarded hair is frequently mixed with the debris that the cat drags over the kill to cover it (see main photo – taken the day after the deer was cached), or is left windblown around the carcass. A characteristic sign of Bobcat feeding is the amount of hair strewn around the carcass and the lack of broken long bones (Bobcats don’t have the strength to break them with their teeth).

Typically a Bobcat rests near its cache to protect it, but it doesn’t take long for other animals to detect and take advantage of an easy meal. Within three days of this deer being cached, Coyotes and Common Ravens had discovered it, and both they and the Bobcat had eaten enough of it to expose the deer’s rib cage (see insert).

Other predators that occasionally cache and cover their kills include Mountain Lions, Black Bears and Fishers. Large caches found in the winter in the Northeast are likely to belong to a Bobcat or Fisher (Fishers typically cache and feed on deer that they find as carrion).

(Cache discovered by Lynn & Otto Wurzburg, who observed the Bobcat leaving after caching the deer; photograph by Lynn Wurzburg)

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9 responses

  1. Alice Bagwill

    I’m curious about where this took place.

    January 21, 2015 at 8:39 am

  2. Bill On The Hill...

    Great find Mary, good eye for the details on the aftermath of a deer kill & showing nature at its best with respect to the food chain…
    Thanks, BF…

    January 21, 2015 at 9:16 am

  3. Albert Gordon

    Hey Lynn,
    Great photos. Mary, thanks again for your daily blog. Albert Gordon

    January 21, 2015 at 9:47 am

  4. Al

    A great find—and neat that they actually saw the bobcat. My ex-wife Sue Mansfield and I found a bobcat-killed deer in Roxbury NH many years ago–found it by backtracking a bobcat. (There’s a photo of it in Mark Elbroch’s “Mammal Tracks and Sign”, p 727.) We didn’t know if the bobcat had killed it or was feeding on carrion, as there were lots of other tracks there, but from our photos and description, Mark was quite certain the bobcat had made the kill. That had been a hard winter for deer due to snow cover and food availability. Someone from F&G told us that we could have gotten a clue of that deer’s health by examining the bone marrow, and likely it was in such bad shape that the cat could practically have just pushed it over.

    January 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    • Fascinating! I just looked up the photo – very nice! I have to say, it was a real highlight for me to see this – what a lot of work for a small cat — the mound was huge!

      January 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm

  5. So are coyote more apt to eat hair or do they all pull out the fur? Last year we had a deer carcass (mostly spine) that was in the midst of a lot of tufts of hair. This was most likely bobcat?

    January 21, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    • It’s hard to say, Eliza — other scavengers can distribute the hair as well, but most, for instance, coyotes and foxes, will eat the hair, especially after the organs, etc. have been consumed. Did you see any tracks (or didn’t you find it in the winter?)

      January 22, 2015 at 8:58 am

      • My son found it and the body was mostly gone by then except for the spine and head. Very tracked out and melted snow, so it was hard to tell. I just imagined coyote, but when you mentioned cats pull out the fur, it made me wonder about the young buck we found. Thanks, Mary.

        January 22, 2015 at 6:07 pm

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